Overpass Prayers

The other day, a little after lunchtime, I happened to stop by the interstate near my house, just to make a couple of phone calls and send off a few emails. As usual, traffic was heavy, loud and fast. It was all I could do to concentrate for all the engine noise and honking.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man with a yoga mat rolled under his arm walking down the grassy strip that outlined the freeway off ramp. He went down a ways then stopped abruptly. He unrolled his mat and turned to face the noisy traffic below.

Then, and I recognized the characteristic movements at once, he began to pray. He was an observant Muslim and it was time for the daily Zuhr prayer. He had oriented himself more or less facing east, interstate traffic be damned.

I watched until he concluded, rolled his mat, walked back up the ramp and out of my view.  Seeing him creating his own sacred space in the midst of our society’s secular noise reminded me very much of the many business-suited people I’d see walking the labyrinth at lunch hour when I was on the staff of San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral.

No matter which particular traditions of practice we follow, if any at all, it would be a much different (i.e., better) world if we all set a few moments aside in our busy, hectic and noisy days for prayer, meditation, or even just conscious self-reflection.

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